Why Twitter is buying a newsletter platform

The Revue acquisition will allow Twitter to capture more of the value it provides for writers.

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Let’s jump right into it…

Twitter acquiring newsletter publishing company Revue

Link: [Axios]

This isn't too surprising given that we learned a few months ago that Twitter was kicking the tires on a possible Substack acquisition.

Revue started out as a Substack competitor, but it soon pivoted to servicing larger publishers. Unlike Substack, it actually charges money to nearly all users, starting at $5 a month and going all the way up to $135, depending on the size of your email list. In terms of functionality, the platform sits somewhere between Substack and Mailchimp.

But in its announcement of the acquisition, Twitter confirmed that it’s making Revue free to use for all users, and will just collect 5% of all paid subscription revenue.

Twitter has been looking to expand beyond its 280 character limit for quite a while. Several years ago, it was rumored to be building out functionality for longer posts that would allow a user to publish up to 10,000 characters, but it quickly scrapped the idea after user outcry. I remember reading a report once that Ev Williams lobbied the Twitter board to buy Medium, and then there was the rumor several months ago that it wanted Substack.

Why does Twitter want to get into longform writing? For years, it’s been the go-to platform for writers and journalists to build their audiences, and yet those power users send their followers off platform for any of their longer pieces. Revue will allow Twitter to capture more of that value, and it’ll add paid subscriptions to the company’s revenue mix.

What does this mean for Substack? Well, Revue’s cut of paid subscriptions is only 5%, compared to Substack’s 10%. And Revue users will presumably be able to tap in somehow to Twitter’s social graph, thereby making audience growth that much easier. It’s worth noting that both Medium and LinkedIn have built newsletter functionality into their platforms within the last year.

Here’s the question I’ll leave you with: Will Twitter build out newsletter ad tech that will allow for its users to opt in to its advertising network? That would be huge.

Speaking of newsletter ads

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How MEL is reinventing the modern men's magazine

MEL aims its content at the under-40, educated, likely-urban male...a man who is less inclined to traditional gender roles, is much more in touch with his feelings, and spends an inordinate amount of time on the internet. [Simon Owens]

How NBC News is making ‘many millions’ of dollars on YouTube after adjusting its strategy

Link: [Digiday]

A factoid from the article: "Roughly half of NBC News’s YouTube views take place on a TV screen"

It’s interesting that even major TV networks are succumbing to the pull of YouTube. You'd think if anyone had the heft to stick mostly to owned and operated channels, it'd be NBC News, and yet it's going all in on YouTube.

YouTube has paid more than $30 billion to creators, artists, and others over the last three years

Link: [The Verge]

Wowsers, and that's just what's monetized directly on the platform, not including what YouTubers make from merch/Patreon/in-video sponsorships. The creator economy is huge.

Here’s an eye-popping stat from the piece: “YouTube also contributed approximately $16 billion to the U.S. GDP in 2019, supporting the equivalent of 345,000 full time jobs."

Taboola is going public via a SPAC, aiming to raise $545 million

Link: [Business Insider]

I've often wondered why more publishers don't build their own Taboola-like self-service ad tools into their own websites. Imagine a tool that allows people to upload a headline and feature image into a content widget.

It would basically act like a Facebook promoted post, allowing brands to promote their own content on a publisher's site.

Let me give you a hypothetical scenario in which a tech site like TechCrunch installs such a platform. In this scenario, a B2B tech CEO publishes a thought leadership post to Medium or their own website. They then go into TechCrunch’s self-service platform and upload both a headline and a feature image that links to their thought leadership article. And then once the ad has been approved, it runs in a Taboola-like content widget at the bottom of TechCrunch articles.

Why would this be great for publishers? Well, currently the only way for branded content to appear on a publisher website is through native advertising, which is, as I’ve written about before, incredibly expensive and difficult to scale. A self-service content widget wouldn’t require the publisher to create the content but still give it some measure of control over what kind of content appears. It’ll essentially be a much classier version of Taboola.

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Business Insider Did Nothing When the Pandemic Hit. It Worked.

Link: [WSJ]

It's been pretty cool to watch Business Insider evolve from a bloggy aggregator to a site that publishes premium journalism. I finally broke down in 2020 and bought a subscription because it publishes so much good media coverage you can't find elsewhere.

VC firm Andreessen Horowitz hires executive editor

Link: [A16Z]

The VC firm Andreessen Horowitz just hired an executive editor. What started out as a VC blog expanded into an entire podcast network and is now expanding even further into a full fledged media company.

Business Insider followed this news with a piece about how other VC firms are building out their own media arms.

I'm skeptical of the narrative that VC firms are building media arms to "circumvent" traditional media. Tech-focused media is thriving. The more mundane truth is that VCs are building an additional marketing arm to promote their portfolio companies

I also think a lot of tech people vastly underestimate how expensive it is to construct an even modest journalism operation. So you want to go "direct" and build out your own media outlet? Are you ready to pay a $100k salary to an editor-in-chief and at least an additional $400k for a content budget? And are you you willing to wait over a year before you even begin seeing meaningful traffic? Something tells me that a startup company with only $2 million of VC capital in the bank isn’t going to be all that eager to allocate that much to a content budget.

SPAC boom could finally provide an exit ramp for digital publishers like Buzzfeed and Vice Media

Link: [CNBC]

I don't know enough about finance to have a sophisticated opinion on SPACs, but they do seem rather gimmicky to me.

This is such a big deal for me

A few times a week, someone will tag me in a social media post that recommends my newsletter. Here’s an example:

Anyone who works in independent media knows that sometimes it feels like you’re sending your content out into a void, and so it’s so gratifying to me when people acknowledge my hard work in public. The growth of this newsletter is so dependent on recommendations like this, and I’d be so appreciative if you took a few moments to do the same on your social media.

Here, I’ll even provide you some language you can copy and paste:

I've really been enjoying @simonowens' media newsletter. If you work in the industry and aren’t subscribed, then you’re missing out. 


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